January 25, 2013

Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Digging deep: Students’ service project in Nicaragua creates desire to live life at full force

Volunteers from Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville take a break from digging a trench to bring clean running water to outlying villages in Nicaragua in the summer of 2012. From left, senior Lloyd Lashley, junior Abby Spitznagel, junior Megan Gilland, 2012 graduate Elliott Happel, Spanish teacher Alan Mathews, junior Trey Embry and junior Austin Happel. (Submitted photo)

Volunteers from Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville take a break from digging a trench to bring clean running water to outlying villages in Nicaragua in the summer of 2012. From left, senior Lloyd Lashley, junior Abby Spitznagel, junior Megan Gilland, 2012 graduate Elliott Happel, Spanish teacher Alan Mathews, junior Trey Embry and junior Austin Happel. (Submitted photo)

By Christa Hoyland (Special to The Criterion)

CLARKSVILLE—It was hard to tell who enjoyed the moment more.

From one perspective, there were the 15 students and five adults from Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville—a group that worked with other volunteers last summer to dig a trench to lay more than 1,000 feet of pipe to bring fresh running water to outlying villages in Nicaragua.

From another perspective, there were the residents of one of those villages, residents who rolled around in water after the workers turned the pipeline on full-blast.

Being present at that moment was inspiring for the volunteers from Providence High School, including Alan Mathews, the Spanish teacher who organized the service mission trip that took place last July. Since then, he has felt called to do more hands-on service in local ministries and to encourage his students to also become more involved in those efforts.

“Giving money is something everyone wants to do, but there’s something about reaching out,” Mathews said. “Too often, we have good intentions, but intentions are not the same as help. Only through our actions do people get help.”

The group from Providence traveled to Nicaragua to assist the non-profit organization Amigos for Christ in its clean water project and other ministries. The group spent time in an orphanage for mentally challenged children, taught children how to swim, and dug a trench to lay the pipe.

The pipe was part of a long-term project by Amigos for Christ in which rotating groups of volunteers lay a pipeline to transport water from an aquifer to villages that have no plumbing.

Mathews said it was humbling to see villagers living in shacks made of gathered wood and plastic, and their drinking water full of insects. He met third-generation families in which not a single member had ever experienced fresh, clean, running water in their village. When Amigos for Christ workers turned on the water, the villagers cried.

Elliott Happel, who graduated from Providence in May of 2012 before taking part in the trip, said he was overwhelmed when he saw the villagers’ gratitude.

“It is hard to imagine how some people can live in such devastating poverty, but seeing it firsthand has an effect on you that is indescribable,” Happel said. “The work that Amigos for Christ does immediately and permanently changes the lives of all the people who live in these communities, [and] it also immediately and permanently changes the lives of the people who were able to help give them this new life.”

For Providence junior Matt Martin, the opportunity to serve and see the positive attitudes of people who live in such desperate circumstances was affirming.

“Every single one of us that went on this mission trip has been changed,” he said. “Our hearts have been engulfed from the love that these families share not only with their children but with us, showing the thanks they all so eagerly wish to give.

“This isn’t a ‘been there and done that’ experience, but rather a wake-up call to live your life to the fullest, no matter what hardships you must endure, and still be thankful to the man above for giving you a new day.”
 

(Christa Hoyland is director of communications and alumni relations for Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville.)

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!